new director got drunk on his first day

A reader writes:

I have been with my company five years and recently had an awkward situation.

In our company we have four broad levels — VP, director, associate and trainee (there are different levels of seniority at each level). Our company is around 80-90 people, and the VPs are owners and decision-makers with about a dozen of them and about 20 directors. I am currently an associate, having finished my training two years ago. Our company has always been a good place to work and there is a bit of a drinking culture.

During lockdown in July, a new director joined us. I’ve worked for him once, think he is good, and have spoken highly of him. A couple of months ago, he offered to be my mentor to director level, which I was grateful for as I have not previously had a mentor.

However in his first day in the office, he got quite drunk with the VPs of the firm (it’s standard to go for drinks on your first day). The director asked me to clear up his desk (no issue) and get the other three members of the staff who were in the office to come for a drink. We met at a bar separate from the VPs, and during the drinking session that followed the director was talking about the company downsizing and the need to trim the number of associates we have. The director told the two associates drinking with us that they were safe and they didn’t need to worry about their jobs.

With me, he was less complimentary and was quite honest about feedback that he had gathered from the two VPs I have worked for during lockdown. The feedback was some soft skills that I need work on for one VP, and the second VP feIt I had plagiarized some work, which is a more serious allegation in our industry. I was slightly disappointed that the VPs had not discussed these issues directly with me and didn’t appreciate the feedback being relayed to me by a director in a bar in front of my colleagues. I’ve also been feeling that as my mentor he is slowing down my review process and attempting to take credit for any future promotions I achieve.

He was also being very honest about which other associates he would let go, which made the trainee who was out with us uncomfortable as she is friends with one of them.

I came away from the night thinking the director didn’t leave the best impression and that it doesn’t match the culture of the firm, as well as feeling very deflated as I have been working hard during lockdown and brought in quite a lot of business for the company over the last few weeks. I spoke to the VPs who had accused me of plagiarism and asked him if that was correct and he said that it was not and that it does not involve the director. Was I correct to do this and was it the right move?

Part of me just wants to hand in my notice and find a new job, especially as I am in the process of delivering some fairly big and stressful projects at present.

Whoa. There are a ton of problems here.

* This new director got drunk on his first day in the office. Even if your company has a culture where people drink, getting drunk shouldn’t be normal, and doing it on his first day — it’s not a good sign. (And sure, maybe it was a fluke — maybe he hadn’t eaten that day or felt he needed to keep up with the VPs he was drinking with or who knows what. But it’s not a good sign.)

* This new director is so indiscreet when he drinks that he told you the company needs to lay off people on his team. Then he told you who he thought he’d cut. (On his first day! This would never be okay, but why on earth on his first day? How is he even confident he could know something like that on his first day? And why is he sharing it with others?!) And since this is a firm with a drinking culture, what’s he going to be indiscreet about the next time he drinks?

* This new director, who had just started his job that day, relayed criticism about your skills in front of your colleagues. While drunk. Including an accusation that you’d plagiarized some work, which is a huge deal. That’s something he should have spoken with you about privately, at work, while sober, in the most serious of tones — not as a drunken throwaway over drinks. And then it later turned out that the VP who allegedly made the accusation hadn’t really done so? Something is not right here, and I can’t sort out what it is — but your new director is part of the problem in some way.

I suppose it’s possible that this guy had one very bad drunken night and all of this was out of character and was behavior you won’t see again … but I doubt it. He seems cocky and untrustworthy, and he has awful judgment. He might be a bit of a jerk too?

I don’t know that you need to quit over any of this (especially since it doesn’t sound like he’s your boss), but don’t let this person be your mentor. To the contrary, keep your distance. What’s your relationship with your boss like, and can you enlist her help in extracting you from this “mentoring” relationship with someone who doesn’t seem to have your best interests in mind?

And yes, you were right to speak to the VP who you’d heard accused you of plagiarism so you could clear up whatever happened there. Is it cleared up? He told you the report is wrong, but is it still out there? Is the director telling people that?

Something smells very bad here.

{ 134 comments… read them below }

  1. Call me St. Vincent*

    I interrupted the “he started during lockdown” to mean they were remote and he had been there a few months before they went back to the office? In that scenario, the Director would have been there a few months before the drinking incident. I could be off base though.

    1. bookends*

      That’s what I read as well – he’s been working with them remotely since July, this was the first day physically *in the office* for him. But regardless of the timeline, all of Alison’s answers are on point. Everything about this guy screams bad news. I’m also pretty wary of this company’s drinking culture, if the VPs are taking a director out to drink and talking about layoffs and other employees’ performance.

      1. MK*

        I am also confused about the bar incident. It is usual for a new hire to do for drink with the VPs, ok. But the conversation about the layoffs and the OP’s issues happened at another bar with two associates and a trainee? Was that the same day? Did he ask these people to meet him after the drinks with the VPs?

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I think you got it right.
          “[T]he other three members of the staff who were in the office” are, like you say, the two associates whose jobs are safe as well as the trainee who is friends with the associate Jerk wants to let go.
          What made the situation a bit hard to follow initially – at least for me – was the “the director asked me to clear up his desk” part because that sounded like he’d just, IDK, come by OP’s desk to say this to her, but if I’m sussing this out correctly, he must’ve called or texted, probably while he was at the bar with the VPs (and already drunk!).
          So it’s like this: Jerk gets drunk at Bar A with VPs -> Jerks calls OP and three of her coworkers to join him at Bar B -> Jerk continues to drink with his four underlings at Bar B

    2. EPLawyer*

      that’s the way I read it too. He got drunk the first day they went to in person.
      So that removes SOME of the concerns. But it still remains he got drunk and he was indiscreet. Also horribly wrong about some of the things he was being indiscreet about.

      Honestly, OP, this is above your paygrade. The problem is not you. It’s this one Director. You should not leave over him. What you should do is go back to the VP you spoke with about your concerns about what the Director said about you. He seemed receptive. Tell him HOW you found out the information, and the other indiscreet things Director did. This is not tattling. This is information that is vital to the functioning of the company:
      1. Who knows who else was demoralized and thinking of leaving after this little episode. Director may be driving good people away.
      2. If he talks like this when drunk, what he is saying to people NOT with the company after he’s had a few?

      Let the VP handle it. if you like the way it is handled, stay. If you don’t, start job hunting. Oh and no matter what — FIND A NEW MENTOR in the company. This guy is the opposite of one. A dementor?

      1. DuskPunkZebra*

        THIS!!!! The VP needs to know how flippantly and indiscreetly this director is handing out info and false accusations! Even if this was just the first day back in office, he’s still new and this is info they need to know about his judgement and ethics!

        1. Artemesia*

          The plagiarism charge is giant big whopping deal — I would not take seriously the VPs dismissal of it without exploring it further. It is an oddly specific thing to charge without evidence — and so damaging professionally. I’d want to run that down. I’d probably ask the director about it specifically and also sit down with the VP to discuss your concerns about this being casually noised about. BIG deal.

      2. Khatul Madame*

        I want to offer a correction: Start job hunting first, and scale it back if you think the company leadership handles the situation appropriately. Still, as long as this director stays with the company, you will be at risk. You may have cleared the air about one alleged incident, but you can’t control future slander from him.

        I think the second issue Alison listed is one that will carry the most weight with the VPs. If the drunk names the people who will be laid off, the word is bound to get out, and these people may cause harm to company IP and other assets. This goes beyond indiscretion and into the territory of active harm.

        1. Massive Dynamic*

          Also if you are job hunting, maybe you’re already ready for director-level work yourself. Maybe this current director sees that too and is mounting some sort of weird sabotage against you because of it.

        2. EPLawyer*

          I don’t think there is a genuine concern about the potential laid off employees going nuclear on the company and trying to cause harm. MOST people don’t do that. I think the bigger concern is good people might leave since they think they will be pushed out anyway and want to go on their terms. So the harm to the company is less concrete (no destroyed IP, property) but still losing good people always harms a company.

          1. Observer*

            In an industry where IP is an issue any reasonable boss HAS to worry about people doing damage in a poorly handled downsizing. If the boss is NOT thinking about that, they need to get educated.

            Beyond that, this shows that he doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut. What else is he going to blab about?

        3. Dancing Otter*

          It doesn’t even have to be deliberate sabotage, just lack of due diligence.

          Where a conscientious employee would double check an odd result, a demoralized and disengaged employee might shrug and pass it as close enough. Maybe it’s wrong, and needs to be corrected. Maybe it’s correct, but an indicator of a problem. Maybe it’s genuinely ok, but you don’t know.

          Carelessness can cause serious harm.

    3. Rachel*

      That’s what I thought too. I went back to read it more carefully and it’s ambiguous. Either way, this is very bad. If it was truly his first day of work, then I think it is even worse. OP, please take care to protect yourself as best you can.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      Same here! Still terrible, but he’s not working from a place of no knowledge about the team. So he was terribly, terribly indiscreet, but it’s not outrageous that he’s formed opinions about his team.

    5. Myrin*

      I’m pretty sure you aren’t off-base.
      Director joined in July, OP worked with him once between then and now and thought he was a good fit, a few months later he became OP’s mentor, and then the drunkard incident happend. I highly doubt OP would’ve considered him and their collaboration “good” or appreciated his mentoring offer if either of those had happened after the drinking incident, especially since she’s so apprehensive about this that she’s actually considering leaving altogether.

      1. jph in the midlands*

        Funny how people can read the same thing and form different ideas. I got the opinion that the OP had worked with the drunk director in the past someplace else, and that is why OP had a high opinion of him originally.

        1. Myrin*

          Aha, you’re totally right that’s a possiblity as well, I hadn’t even thought of that! I got caught up in the verb tenses and the thought that OP’s description would be chronological but of course that doesn’t actually have to be the case!

    6. Ann O'Nemity*

      I was super confused about the timeline too. Did the new Director start the company in July? Join the team in July, after transferring from another dept? Come to the office in July after working remotely? When did the OP work for him before – at another company or the same company?

      In any event, there’s no excuse for the Director’s behavior. He’s not mentor material, and you can’t trust him farther than you can throw him.

      1. Attack Cat*

        Also, it sounds like they went to a bar their first day back from remote work (that was seemingly only remote due to COVID-19). In what jurisdiction was it safe to do that in July? Maybe they were sitting outside in direct sunlight where it was a bit safer, but it doesn’t sound like they were socially distancing from non household members while their masks were off. (Sunlight helps break down particles suspended in air/on surfaces, it doesn’t reduce the risk from someone coughing in your face) I realize I have a tendency to view things through a US lense when no location is provided/implied, but that would have been similarly unsafe in many jurisdictions.

    7. Elenna*

      Yeah, that was my reading – it was his first day *in the office* after lockdown, but not his actual first day. Still ridiculous behaviour though.

  2. AMD*

    It sounds like he hadn’t started his job that day, that was just his first day back in the physical office present with other coworkers. Am I reading that right?

  3. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

    Creepers on a cracker, did my former boss from the ninth ring of Hades resurface with some sort of seniority in another industry? I was rather enjoying where this questionably functionally drunk nouveau riche jerk had wound up (back in the field with the tools, which there is nothing wrong with, but he felt it below him so….).

    Seriously, there are so many issues with the scenario described that I’m not sure where to start.

      1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

        Its exactly what I *did* do. He was a horror (think old Nextel Push to Talks…he’s at a topless bar at a liquid lunch, I’m in a freaking client meeting…cringe….)!!!!

    1. cmcinnyc*

      I am thinking of one famously nefarious drunk, formerly employed at my company, who could probably talk his way into this job and then spectacularly f it up (and f up various subordinates and projects and expense accounts) on his inevitable way out the door. Keep failing up, guys!

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      One of the owners at Ex Job drunk THREE bottles of wine at the End Of Year dinner and DROVE HOME after. I was the only one horrified at the sight, the rest had a “get him drunk and ask for a raise” attitude towards the issue. I’m so glad I’m not there anymore.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        I work at a garbage dump near a seafood processing plant and even we don’t smell this fishy.

  4. c-*

    LW, any chance you’re a woman and the other two associates were men? Or that you’re a POC and they’re white? That bar meeting has my Old Boys Club radar pinging really hard. Stay far away from that jerk and make sure the record on your perfomance and character is corrected with your bosses and colleagues.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      I don’t think old boy network guys reach outside their cohort, particularly for mentoring opportunities. I think this guy is a run of the mill jackass.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Unless he’s “mentoring” the OP right out of the job on purpose; ie. she was doing just fine without a mentor, and now suddenly she has a lot of problems only he can “fix”…

        1. c-*

          Yeah, the point about wanting to take credit for the LW’s accomplishment while not providing any actual useful mentoring has my hackles up.

        2. Grits McGee*

          Or trying to “mentor” OP into a relationship…. yuck, really hope this is not the case and he’s just an incompetent drunk.

      2. JSPA*

        There’s mentoring, and “mentoring.” I’m usually the first to say, not all factual misrepresentations are gaslighting, most negative feedback is feedback, not negging, etc.

        But this behavior puts, “I’m convincing you that you owe me, big-time, no matter how I call in the favor” and, “hey, let’s all get drunk together and ignore professional boundaries” in close conjunction.

        Be prepared and pre-armed with a response (and if it’s outside of the office and in what would legally be presumed a public space), perhaps even a video recording, without sound if needed per your state’s recording laws. I’m not saying he’s definitely going to demand the oldest form of quid-pro-quo, but I’d not be particularly surprised. More likely, it’s 100% “take credit for your ideas,” so make sure that’s well-documented as well.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Had similar thoughts.

        I would not trust this director and would NOT allow him to mentor me. LW should look for an out from that relationship, and should also shore up other relationships, both to repair anything that needed repairing and to reinforce positives in case LW needs someone to have their back.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          And document all your performance and put copies in a place you can get them when you’re not at work.

      2. Miss Marple*

        I also had that thought. It happened many years ago to my falt make.

        She gets a new boss who is new to the industry and part of his brief was to mentor her as the executives believed she needed more experience to move into a Senior Manager role

        She had always been a high performer and at 23 became a manager, which is young and almost unheard of for our industry.

        12 months later when he has finished picking her brains about the Industry, while she is on holidays she is told that she has been fired. This was after 5 years of stellar reviews.

        He did such a number on her, that people in the company that knew how good she was were convinced she was incompetent.

        I hope I am wrong but better to be aware so you can protect yourself and be on guard.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Fatal flaw in that plan. Once he burns through all HER stellar ideas then he will have to generate his own ideas. I’d love to be a fly on the wall to watch that play out.

    2. Code Monkey the SQL*

      I hadn’t even considered that angle, but there’s a DEFINITE power play feel to this whole incident that might have extra-sharp edges if there’s disparity in privilege. “I’m gonna get hammered and tell you that I’d probably let you, my mentee, let me go because of these [unfounded] things I heard about you from other people.” Oooh, yeah that’s got Neg written all over it.

      LW, I really hope you clear the air completely with the other VP, especially over the plagiarism accusation. Even drunk-after-hours rumors can still hurt you.

    3. kt*

      There is a phenomenon I’ve observed/been a victim of where some people (fill in the blanks you might yourself observe) want to “mentor” the young person who has demographic characteristic Y that is different than the majority with characteristic X, because they get credit for mentoring and being sensitive to diversity, but then they proceed to give bad advice, get the mentee into big and slightly risky projects, and then if the project succeeds they take all the credit and throw the mentee under the bus and if the project fails they say well you know I tried to mentor her… but…

      For me, this was a senior and very well-respected professor at my first job who was named my official mentor, then got me to organize a big diversity thing against my desires (I knew it was going to take away energy from the work that would get me hired or promoted, but he was also on the hiring committee), then didn’t help me much when I had to fight other people in other departments for resources, and then literally flew back for the big event, didn’t help, got up on stage when it was successful, and congratulated himself for his work (not mentioning me at all). And I didn’t get hired for the permanent position, and he was late with my letters of reference for all the other positions I applied for. And he’s seen as someone who ‘supports young women’.

      So — run. You can tell from the drunken discussion that this is not the mentorship you need.

      1. Student*

        This is definitely a dynamic I’ve seen others subjected to and personally experienced as well. Seconding this advice. Time to job hunt for someplace that will value you.

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        This is absolutely a thing that happens more often than people openly talk about, especially in workplace cultures that have some of the messed-up-ness that the OP described. It’s about everything you mentioned plus wanting the cover of having a minority who appears to cosign or thrive in an otherwise unwelcoming culture.

      3. Paperwhite*

        An excellent description of a horrible and widespread practice. I’m so sorry he inflicted that on you.

      4. Elfie*

        Oh my god, this describes something I’m experiencing right now! I’ve been hand-picked as the diversity champion for our IT department (my company really does want to improve it’s diversity statistics – my department, I’m not so sure), and whilst it’s something I’m passionate about (getting and keeping women in IT and making it a more welcoming place to be), I’m worried that it is going to take time away from my actual day job, and that I’m being set up to fail. My director has made a few comments that make me think he’s not all that supportive (racial and misogynistic-type comments), and I’ve been given literally zero support from within the department. I’ve also been given no deadlines or deliverables, but I have been asked for certain deliverables at the very last moment. So far I’ve been able to produce them (maybe not the best quality, but at least I got something out the door!), but I’m permanently afraid I’m going to be lambasted for not committing to this…

  5. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    So many red flags on this one company — 12 owners/decision-makers? 15% of the company’s employees are VP’s?

    1. Zephy*

      12 owners, 3 years(!) of training, drinking culture, and apparently absolutely zero fraternization policies. What kind of company is this?

      1. Been There*

        I worked for a company like this for 3+ years. I was let go eventually, but not before I ended up with an eating disorder, anxiety and depression. You tell people and they think “wow I would love to work for a company where people were so close”. Your response is the correct one – I will never ever work at a company like that again.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          Was going to say, this is pretty common in the professional services industry, where partner-based ownership is the norm for a lot of firms.

          Getting made a partner can be a hugely troublesome thing – requires free cash to buy into the firm, and the agreement of all the other owners. Missing either of those things at the same time? In a good firm, you’ll have another shot, but a good firm also doesn’t have a drinking culture.

          Wouldn’t be surprised if this firm worked on a “you have one shot to make partner” mindset.

        2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          Anonymouse made a good point in a post down thread about plagiarism not really a big thing in law though — “If you find a good argument in someone’s legal brief, you will save it and cut and paste it in one of your future legal briefs,” and I imagine that in financial services the numbers are the numbers. Usually you hear of plagiarism in creative fields and I just haven’t seen creative companies structured quite like this. There might be partners in an advertising company but they’re still usually structured in a triangle shape hierarchy with the lowest tier employees far outnumbering the management. The way this is set up, there is almost 1 director for every 2 lower-level employees (associates and trainees).

    2. WellRed*

      I wondered if the company was a bit top heavy (15% VPS, 20 directors), but my company is so small it’s hard for me to gauge.

    3. L Dub*

      Right? I know that wasn’t the point of the letter, but of 90 employees there are also 20 directors?!?! And 12 more owners/decision makers? WTF

      1. aka*

        The multiple owners thing is common in industries where companies are set up as partnerships. Law firms is a common example.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Thirty two people out of the 90 people are bosses, so a bit better than 1/3. And there is no prez, no central clearing point? What could possibly go wrong. I bet they don’t have an HR department, either.

    4. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      One owner/decision maker/VP per vertical is plausible and not always a red flag. There are certain areas of professional services where many firms are the result of recent-ish mergers between small industry-specific shops. Everyone comes together to benefit from shared services and a bigger client base but they all get to manage their own turf.

  6. Cubular Belles*

    I would keep a journal of all interactions with him and include this event, just in case and also for your own accord. If you have a good relationship with your boss, I would talk to them about this but in a “I just wanted to clear this up” sort of way. And yes, keep your distance and find a new mentor or a new job if it doesn’t improve, either way, brush up the ol’ resume.

  7. FireX*

    I have a question about the math here. So the company is 80-90 people, 12 of them VPs and 20 of them directors?? So that means that more than 1/3 are top management. Talk about too many chiefs and too few indians… That doesn’t seem normal for any industry I know. And on top of that, they are going to make the organization more top heavy by letting some associates go? If they really need to save money, get rid of some of these directors and VPs instead!

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I’m trying to figure that out too. The only thing I can imagine is a law firm…12 full-partners, 20 junior partners… otherwise this is crazy.

  8. I Love Llamas*

    Circle your wagons and quickly. I would enlist those other attendees to be included in a chat with that VP because you don’t want this to be a he said/she said (sorry if pronoun use is inaccurate). I think the comment about mentoring a POC or female is absolutely something a jerk would do to polish his halo. He was indiscreet and immature. Do not allow him to be your mentor even if it means you tell him you prefer a mentor outside of the company for a diversity of thought approach. Run away from him….

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      “Circle the wagons” is also a racist term very much of a piece with the “too many chiefs” one above. It refers to white “pioneers” colonizing the “frontier” and worried about Native attacks.

      1. KnittyKnerd*

        Thanks for pointing this one out too. It’s weird that this letter has brought out so many racist sayings.

        1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

          I am sure it was inadvertent! I am just trying to raise awareness.
          And yes, super odd that this letter is eliciting multiple old-timey slurs!

  9. Empress Matilda*

    Honestly OP, I think it’s time to start making an exit plan if you can. It’s worth sitting down again with the VP who the Director said accused you of plagiarism, and tell him the rest of what you’ve told us here. Or your own boss, if you have a good relationship with her. But seriously, somebody needs to know about this Director’s incredible lack of judgement and tact here – none of what he said is professional or appropriate in any kind of workplace.

    But even if you decide not to pursue that part any further, I would start doing some research into what other jobs might be out there for you. This is the kind of workplace that can really warp your perception of what’s normal and reasonable. It’s not a “get the hell out immediately” kind of situation, but I would say it’s definitely time to start thinking about it. Good luck!

    1. J.B.*

      Yeah the heavy drinking and client relationship stuff makes me wonder if they only promote white men. I saw that several places in my old field. Look for other things, not hair on fire but take it seriously.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Yes, it doesn’t hurt to start looking. You don’t have to do anything about it now, but you can get a head start on the process in case it’s necessary later.

  10. HR Ninja*

    I don’t have any sage advice. I’m sorry you had to hear the information he provided this way. (If you can call it information considering the circumstances.)

  11. Me*

    I think the answer misinterpreted the timeline here. The Director started during the lockdown and got drunk the first time they were in the office. They were working for some months prior to the drinking event just apparently remotely. This means that he does in fact have some knowledge that he could have been basing he statements on. He’s been “mentoring” the OP.

    The director is still a problem but I wonder how it/if would change the advice knowing the Director wasn’t on his actual first day.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      I was confused about the timeline too, but I don’t think it changes the advice. Either way, the Director has been with the company for a few months max – and what he did was so wildly inappropriate it wouldn’t matter if he had been there for a few months or a few years.

      1. Me*

        I’m thinking more along the lines of this is actually a very toxic workplace and OP, previously unaware, was made privy to that toxicity courtesy of a drunken loud mouth. As in he disclosed things he shouldn’t have but that there may have been some truth to them.

        I wouldn’t quit necessarily but I would be polishing my resume and putting out feelers. I’d certainly be reevaluating the workplace and looking for previously unseen signs of dysfunction.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          This is my question with regards to what happened.

          A) Did this jerk get drunk and tell the truth, and the VP she spoke to lied?
          B) Did this jerk get drunk and make crap up, and the VP she spoke to tell the truth that it’s all BS?

          I personally am leaning towards A, myself.

          1. Qwerty*

            My experience tends to be halfway between those points, where Director hears info as either good or bad and then really exaggerates it when talking to the Associates so it sounds like he is sharing info from the inner circle. The Director then legitimately believes what he is saying while the VPs think it is BS.

            So mildly positive praise about the coworkers or even something vague like referring to their team as being “solid” transforms into the coworkers being completely safe from lay offs. Random comment about OP’s work becomes plagiarism. Heck, even the layoff is probably extrapolation from any discussion about available options in the pandemic.

          2. Artemesia*

            That is my fear. The VP may well have made the charge but not be willing to stand behind it and the Director let the cat out of the bag. I’d be pretty anxious in the OP’s place and would want to deal with this pretty directly. It sounds like drunk guy was spilling truths that the VPs aren’t ready to share.

  12. learnedthehardway*

    This guy is bad news – I would speak with both of the VPs, not just the one the director claimed you said plagiarized work.

    Also, agreeing with the advice above to start job hunting, but to also see how your own company is handling things before jumping ship.

  13. Anonymouse*

    Probably not a law firm.

    The titles are wrong (VPs, directors, interns).

    Any lawyer who gets this drunk and this indiscreet, will be in front of another bar (state bar association).

    Also plagarism is not a big crime in the practice of law. If you find a good argument in someone’s legal brief, you will save it and cut and paste it in one of your future legal briefs.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Totally. Beyond advertising, smaller consulting, PR, and market research firms are notorious for pretty much everything that the OP described. The titles and top-heavy org chart make sense, even for shops that don’t have partner-based ownership. The work hard/party hard culture does as well, even though most of those firms, depending on their clientele, make a big deal of hiring people capable of discretion which makes OP’s director that much worse. These are all professional services fields where plagiarism can be an issue.

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      You make a good point about the plagiarism claim — that wouldn’t work for a lot of professional services or financial companies either… the numbers are the numbers. I wonder if by setting the OP up as someone who “plagiarizes” he’s setting the stage for taking credit for her work in such a way that if she pushes back that she’s the originator, the seeds of doubt are already taking root.

      1. Firecat*

        Plagiarism in finance is still a big deal. If you take Jeff’s pro forma and change yourself as the author them that’s what is considered plagiarism.

        We actually fired a consultant once because he took a process map I mad and claimed he had did it as an example of his “amazing” work on just one day.

  14. MissDisplaced*

    I don’t even know where to begin with this. The director shows some terrible lack of discretion to share information like that with you given the circumstances.
    Even if this was a one-time fluke and they do not normally behave in this manner, I would have some serious doubts about their ability to be your mentor. Because this is not the kind of mentor you’d want.

    1. Bostonian*

      Yeah, I actually have a hard time believing this was a fluke. If it were a true aberration of behavior, it would probably look more like him just spilling that there would be layoffs, but he apparently went ON about who he would cut, who the VPs wanted to cut, what he thought about OP’s work… this was more than 1 slip-up!

  15. PJ*

    I would say go and lay out what happened to the most senior person who have a good relationship with, one you trust and have appreciated in the past. In my mind, what they do with the info you share is your answer to whether or not you move on and job search. Your mentor should be fired, but that’s just me! The guy is completely unethical and shows very bad judgement.

  16. Firecat*

    “By the way someone important accused you of this terrible thing.” Said casually at drinks in front of other peers and leaders…


  17. Essess*

    I would go to HR and tell them that you’ve heard some disturbing accusations about your work being plagiarized and the accusation/rumor has been repeated in front of your coworkers. Let HR know that you’ve already confirmed with the people in the rumor and that they didn’t make those accusations so you want to find you whether your employment record has inaccurate information that will affect your promotions and raises.

  18. RobotWithHumanHair*

    This reminds me of my previous director who would be out in the morning for a dentist appointment and show up very clearly drunk around noon smelling strongly of alcohol.

    1. Anon for this here post*

      I’m going through this in my current job. He just retired, but it was an open secret that the AD had a drinking problem. The guys in another department joked that even his desk “smelled better” now that he is gone.

  19. Former Employee*

    This guy sounds like someone who needs to impress the younger/junior crowd. He may or may not know anything. The whole plagiarism issue sounds suspect because from what the OP said, it appears as if an employee would be in serious trouble over that type of infraction, yet she had never been called on it by the VP who allegedly mentioned it to the director in question. Who knows where he got the idea to say that or why, other than that he might have some sort of “white knight” complex and thinks that if the OP believes he has rescued her, she will be grateful and maybe end up doing a lot of his work for him.

  20. Jennifer Juniper*

    I’m so sorry, OP!

    Dust off your resume in case you get fired for stuff the director makes up about you. And speak to an employment lawyer if that happens.

  21. Six Feet Under Par: A Chip Driver Mystery*

    In my experience dealing with shit people do while drunk at work, it’s never just one occasion. There may be more of these incidents to come

  22. Rach*

    Why were you at a bar during this COVID mess? Why were any of you there?

    This is why this country is seeing our numbers skyrocket. Stay home! Jeez.

    1. Please Leave*

      If a state has decided bars/restaurants can operate with certain safety precautions in place, why can’t people go there and you know, support local businesses staying open?

      Living rooms parties of maskless people who think they are safe because they’re all friends and large gatherings are the super spreaders, not 3-4 people safely socializing.

      1. Lalaroo*

        This is just not true. Bars and restaurants are some of the largest contributers to the spread of coronavirus, in large part because they are places where you cannot stay masked at all time (because you’re eating and drinking), and also because as people get drunker they get less safe.

        Here’s some info on this:,of%20a%20problem%20than%20bars.

  23. staceyizme*

    I think you can file this director under “walking disaster who drowns innocents in his wake”. Distance yourself. Minimize contact. Verify anything he tells you or asks you to act on. And if you can move out of his orbit, do so.

  24. Malika*

    Many moons ago, a sparkling new director managed to get incredibly drink at happy hour at the end of his first week. He started to shout at everyone, disparage the wife of the CEO, comment negatively on the people sitting next to us and had to be driven home. He lasted two months before being let go as a bad ‘culture fit’ ( i think Leadership sincerely tried to get past it but couldn’t). Getting blindingly drunk in the first months of your tenure is a huge no-no in most workplaces, even ones that have a reputation as pretty relaxed. You are either expected to hold your liquor or to drink in moderation. It’s very likely he’s creating his own demise, and wont have to deal with him for much longer.

  25. wow*

    We’re just going to skip over the part where everyone in the story goes barhopping in a pandemic? Like that doesn’t tell us a whole bunch about this workplace culture and the judgment of everyone involved?

    1. Please Leave*

      This is a dramatic interpretation of 3-4 people being in a public space that they are legally entitled to be in.

      1. JB*

        ‘Legally entitled’? The virus does not care about what’s legal (and most law enforcement entities in the US are not taking reasonable precautions regarding the virus). Two of my brother’s friends are currently hospitalized with COVID after going barhopping in Boston.

    2. Greg*

      I had a similar reaction. As often with AAM letters, we’re working off of incomplete information, so it’s always possible we’re missing context that would cause us to view the situation differently, but speaking for myself, if my colleagues wanted to go out for drinks right now, I would decline, and if I found out that they were getting drunk and acting indiscreetly I would be particularly upset about sharing an office with them, under the assumption that indiscreet drunk people are probably not taking reasonable precautions to avoid spreading the virus. I would also question the corporate culture that encouraged such activity.

      Again, maybe there’s more to the story. And all of this is tangential to the OP’s concerns. But particularly in this time of rising caseloads and potential holiday super-spreader events, it’s incumbent on all of us to keep this stuff front of mind at all times

    3. Alison*

      Not everyone lives in the US. For all we know, they’re in Australia. Let’s focus on the actual red flags!

  26. cheeky*

    “Our company is around 80-90 people, and the VPs are owners and decision-makers with about a dozen of them and about 20 directors.”
    So somewhere around a third of the workforce is management? That seems high for a small company.

  27. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I’ve worked with my share of office drunks and office stoners, but fortunately, it wasn’t in a job where we were operating heavy machinery, driving trucks, etc.

    But I did have a job interview once, where the boss took me out to lunch. I had one beer and a sandwich. The interviewer got so drunk, I had to drive him and his car back to the office. They didn’t offer me a job, but conversely, I had heavy thoughts about NOT going there… !!!!!

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